Along with Randy Jackson’s announcement that he’s leaving American Idol, rumors have been swirling left and right on what changes will be made to the singing competition show for season 13. Will all the judges be leaving? Are any of them staying? While we don’t yet have a definitely answer, FOX entertaining chairman Kevin Reilly is giving his take on what went wrong in season 12, any changes that might be made next year and if the show is sticking with a four-judge panel.

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In a conference call with reporters, Reilly said he doesn’t believe the judges caused the ratings to plummet this year. “I really can’t comment on that. I think there is a confluence of things,” he said. “I think even more so than any other one factor is … the age of the show.” So what did cause the steep downward spiral? “I think maybe the format this year — we expanded some of the middle rounds. We did a boy/girl thing that went over three weeks. That is really where the ratings kind of took their biggest hit. So if I were really to point to any one thing, it might have been that format.”

As soon as season 12 concludes this Thursday, work will begin at FOX on retooling the show, including some format changes. “Our next season begins on Friday morning after our finale,” he went on to say. “And that’s when we’re really going to go to work in earnest. Because I think the format, more than anything, will have a few fresh twists next year that we already identified that I think will really be a nice little jolt for next season.” It’s unclear at this point what those “fresh twists” will be. Will the audition rounds be overhauled? Will they spend some more money on new songs for the contestants?

So if he’s not blaming the judges for the low ratings, what does he have to say about Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban, Mariah Carey and Randy Jackson? “It’s confirmed that one judge is not coming back, obviously Randy. It’s not a completely shock. We’ve talked to Randy. We felt like it was time to move [on]. We didn’t know the exact timing of it. He’s been a great partner for 12 years. There’s not an ounce of ill-will there either way.”

Yeah, Randy’s great, but what about the others? Are the rumors true that everyone is getting the ax? Or are they welcome back? “Welcome back? Absolutely,” Reilly said. “But everything at this point is on the table and we’ll talk about it starting Friday.”

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While the FOX exec is not giving away too many details, the biggest scoop he revealed was about the number of judges to expect in season 13. Will Idol return to a three-judge panel instead of having four like we saw this year (and in season 9)? It’s “likely,” according to Reilly. It seems obvious that they went with four judges to compete with The Voice. But as we’ve seen in both seasons that they attempted this format, it just doesn’t seem to work all that well for Idol.

Through all the changes American Idol has gone through over the past several years with judges coming and going, the sole constant has always been Ryan Seacrest. In an interview with Extra, Ryan mentioned that there’s no doubt about his status on the show: “I’m staying next season, yes. I’m hosting 100%,” he said, reiterating the news from last spring that he had signed a new $15 million a year contract to stay with the show for two more seasons. (With Randy leaving, he’s now the sole original cast member.) This means he’ll have to renegotiate a new deal next year for any additional seasons beyond season 13. And hopefully he does stay on after that, because we all know that Ryan leaving might just be the final hit to¬†Idol‘s already rocky stature.

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(Image courtesy of FOX)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.